A while back, cruising around my local Walmart, I noticed that there was a battle chest for Diablo and Diablo 2 priced at around thirty-something dollars. All I knew about Diablo at the time were two things: first, that it was a rather old game, and secondly, that it belonged to a kind of game known as the dungeon crawler. I didn't actually buy the battle chest, but later on I ran into one of Diablo's descendants, Titan Quest, on Steam. I instantly became addicted to the dungeon crawler genre, and so I foolishly took the only other one my family owned, Space Siege, out for a whirl.
Question: How does one go about besieging space, a completely open 3D environment?
Answer: Shut up and look at the badass box art. This ain't a physics class.
Space Siege actually starts out brilliantly, with a introductory cutscene that shows the Earth being attacked by a vicious alien race known as the Kerak. Much like the start of Titan:AE, humanity is attempting to flee the doomed planet in several gigantic colony vessels. Your ship nearly makes it away, but a Kerak landing pod latches onto the side of the vessel, and you're quickly forced into cryosleep while the ship's AI (named PILOT), floods the ship with toxic gases to kill the all the aliens onboard. When you wake up though, the ship is a mess, the Kerak are still out and about, and to top it all off some mysterious human cyborgs are running amok.
The start is sadly the best part of Space Siege, as things start going downhill right out the gate. The first problem would be the graphics. Space Siege is actually pretty good looking during gameplay, but for some reason the framerate periodically goes and has a heart attack. The game is still playable most of the time, but the odd slowdowns starts to really grind away at one's patience, especially when your computer can run MUCH more taxing games (like, say, Crysis) without such technical issues popping out of the woodwork. There's also problems with the cutscenes: the opening one is a glorious work of pre-rendered CGI, but after that the scenes are done with the in-game engine, and it clearly wasn't made for the job. These in-game cutscenes are ugly, and they aren't even done very well: models are jerkily animated and the character's mouths don't even move when they speak, leading to many immersion-breaking moments.
The storyline (and writing in general) isn't much better. Space Siege's start is, once again, brilliant: and it sets up all sorts of possibilities, but the writers fumble the ball throughout the rest of the game. Things aren't explained much in Space Siege: events occur at random, characters do things without proper motivation, and what little backstory you find (scattered throughout the ship in collectible data logs) is either rushed or lacks depth. That isn't to say it's all bad: there are good moments lurking in Space Siege's narrative*, but the interesting concepts present are either mismanaged or quickly thrown to the side in favor of the writing team dumping another bucket of sci-fi cliches onto the script. Everything just feels half-assed somehow, as if the team in charge of the whole process was phoning it in. The writers of The Herculoids were better than these chumps.
And then there's the cyborg vs. humanity system. Throughout the game, you're given the choice to upgrade yourself with certain cybernetic parts, which unlocks new skill trees for when you level up. However, installing parts into your body decreases your humanity level, which also closes off other abilities. Whether or not you install parts affects how the main story plays out. Sounds neat, amiright?
Not with these developers at the helm. The balance of the cyborg/humanity system is completely fucked, and humans get the shaft. Players who decide to go the all-human route (the way to the best ending) will find that most of the time, they can cut through the enemy with ease, but once they've taken damage the only way to heal themselves is by either using med-kits (extremely rare to find) or revisiting a save point**. There's no healing abilities for you to use if you're a human. Cyborgs, on the other hand, get no fewer than three healing powers(one of which also increases the damage you do), extra reserves of health and energy, passive bonuses, and the best weapons in the game.
This imbalance MIGHT be tolerable if the storyline/powers for the humans were massively better, but they aren't. There are only two humans-only powers in the game, both of which are relatively useless and only attained at the VERY end... and all the story stuff amounts to is one person telling you that the upgrades are necessary, and another telling you that they aren't a good idea. The endings for the game are basically the same regardless of which path you choose, except the "best" ending, which causes the badly-characterized comm officer to randomly decide she wants to sleep with you. Off-screen. What a reward.
Space Siege started out with a bang, but like the careers of most 90's pop stars, it died quickly. I'd only recommend it to people who are absolutely STARVED for a new dungeon crawler, and even in that case I'd hesitate to recommend purchasing it: the awful gameplay elements and half-hearted story cripple any enjoyment to be had.